Are You at Risk For an ACL Injury?
It goes without saying that the modern athlete has a strong support staff of parents, coaches and a number of trainers, each doing their best to ensure that athlete is safe on and off of the field.
However, many parents and athletes have no idea what the risk factors for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury are. Only after an injury occurs and a patient goes through the recovery process do they learn what they should be aware of to prevent re-injury.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
These risk factors are things we are born with, much like some risk factors for hypertension or diabetes. Though they cannot be changed, proper precautions can be taken once the risk(s) are recognized. The following will give you an idea of such risk factors:
Example: A 14-year old freshman high school soccer player who frequently sprains her ankles and is experiencing knee pain/discomfort.
This individual has several non-modifiable risk factors:
- Gender: females are at a higher risk
- Hormonal changes during puberty
- Has had previous lower extremity injuries and is experiencing knee pain
She would be a prime example of an athlete that needs more attention. If you fall into this category, it doesn’t mean you’re destined for an injury, but it does mean that you need to be proactive to reduce your risk, such as a comprehensive training program.
Modifiable Risk Factors
No matter how many factors exist within athletes that cannot be changed, there are also many that can. The following list details modifiable risk factors:
Being in shape and being in shape for sports are two different things. Many athletes begin sports without any conditioning work in the offseason. This is one of the most common risk factors that can be proactively changed.
When an athlete is not in shape for sports, the mechanics of the body tend to fail. The muscles that support movement become tired, and athletes push themselves to accomplish even the simple task of running up the court or the field. This greatly increases the stress on the body that the athlete does not perceive.
Understanding the situation in sports will help performance, but it can also keep you safe. An athlete that is not concentrating and/or lacking in motivation is, not surprisingly, at an increased risk for injury. When your athlete is moving at half speed and an athlete charges at them at full speed, it’s an injury waiting to happen.
Optimal sports technique will help keep your athlete in shape. If your athlete is out of shape or lacks concentration, their sports techniques will falter. This is especially true for an athlete that has limited experience with the sport, then throwing that athlete on varsity against bigger, stronger and faster athletes. You’d be asking for an injury that most of us would be smart enough to say no to, right? The sad reality, however, is that athletes are thrown into that scenario all the time.
Make sure you have the correct equipment adjusted for the athlete participating in sport. It would seem like common sense, but many athletes practice and play in worn-out footwear. Practicing in footwear that is not supportive is much like driving a car on flat tires. The danger with improper equipment is that movement mechanics of the body will change to fit the improper equipment.
Field conditions are an obvious risk factor that must be prepared for. Prime examples of increased risk factors on the field, such as mounds and holes in the field and dirt patches, are a good indication of a poorly conditioned field that needs to be taken into consideration prior to play. Taking time to acclimate athletes to the field is an easy step to protect the athlete and reduce the risk.
We can help keep your athlete in the game and out of harm’s way. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our sports specialists, contact us today.